I have a two year old!

Obviously I added to my last post that I hoped to write more regularly with updates about Oscar and his development, but the time has just flown by and now, somehow, the little tiny baby I brought home from hospital has turned into a fully fledged two year old toddler with no new posts from me!

Oscar 18-24

(Oscar aged 19-24 months)

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Oscar’s routine has changed somewhat since the eighteen month mark.  The most noticeable area being bedtime.  We went through a really tough time a few months back where Oscar just would not go to sleep in the evenings and did everything he could to avoid it.  It was such a big hit for us to take as he had always been so good at going down to bed on his own before.  To go from that to either Dan or I still being up with Oscar close to midnight on some evenings, leaving no time for us as a couple or just time to ourselves was very, very hard.  We made several changes to his bedtime routine to try and resolve the situation at 19-20ish months; We bravely took the sides off from Oscar’s cot, lowering the mattress and turning it into a toddler bed and we also attempted to drop his nap.  Although not yet perfect, things have improved somewhat and his routine is usually similar to that below.

7am – Oscar wakes, usually by walking through into our room with a book in his hand and asking to be read to.  It makes me melt every time he comes through in the morning and lifts up his arms to be picked up and placed down between Dan and I for a snuggly reading of his book.  He went through a phase of looking at Dan and saying “Daddy!”, turning to me, “Mummy!” and then pointing to himself “…and Oscar!”  It was very cute.

Once I have read his book Oscar and I head downstairs for breakfast.  Oscar sits up on the windowsill over our kitchen worktop with a banana whilst I prepare something for him to eat.  His favourites at the moment are Weetabix with kiwi and peanut butter on toast.  He also asks for a ‘peanut butter thumb’!  If he doesn’t have cereal, I also pour him a cup of milk but if he has cereal, I offer him water instead.

We usually attend an activity at least three mornings a week (Rhyme Time, messy play, swimming lessons or a playdate with a friend.)  Oscar adores any organised activity and his confidence has grown so much during these past few months.  As long as he knows what he is supposed to be doing and he knows that I am still nearby he happily stands directly in front of the group leader enthusiastically taking part with all the actions and words asked of him!
On the days we stay at home Oscar plays with his toys in the lounge.  Trains and dinosaurs are his favourite and he will sit and draw for hours if given the chance.

Oscar will have a snack mid-morning.  Usually breadsticks, a chunk of cheese, a cracker or some raisins.

Lunch is around midday.  It is usually a sandwich/wrap/scone and a yoghurt.  I try and include some avocado or a pear on the side as these are Oscar’s favourite fruit and veg items at the moment (apart from bananas of course!) and ones I know that he will eat.  His tastes have changed dramatically lately and he is not as good at eating his vegetables as he once was.

Although we’ve tried to drop Oscar’s nap to help improve bedtime, this isn’t always a success and some days there is nothing we can do to keep him awake, particularly if he has had a busy morning rushing around with other toddlers.  On these days I try and catch up with some cleaning but also make a bit of time for me to have a break as well, knowing that I may be up until midnight trying to get him down to sleep.

Usually though, we can bypass the nap now and Oscar enjoys playing outside with a football, or we head out to the park.  He adores helping me make dinner  in the late afternoon and stirring ingredients in a bowl or putting the vegetables into the saucepan to boil.

I try to have dinner with Oscar around 5:30-6pm.  We’ve moved this back slightly over the past few months.  If I am training in an evening I am unable to have my dinner before heading out for a session as it just doesn’t agree with my body.  Dan returns home from work around 6:15-6:20pm most evenings so starting dinner a little bit later means that I can pick at my tea next to Oscar and Dan can join us at the table to eat his when he arrives home, allowing me to leave for my run and finish my dinner on my return.

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Oscar still prefers all-in-one meals to dishes with separated foods, although I try to mix things up and he is always given a selection of what we have on our plates, even if I am sure that he won’t eat it.  He now asks for a knife along with his fork and has become more and more independent when it comes to eating on his own.

I like Oscar to have a bit of a mad run around in the evening and we often have ‘races’ from the kitchen to the stairs or we spend time putting together a ‘dance routine’ where either Oscar or I shout out instructions such as ‘crawl backwards’, or ‘spin in a circle’ and then we both follow through with the actions.

His bedtime routine starts around 8pm.  Quite late, but any earlier becomes soul destroying for all involved.  Dan is usually in charge of bedtime and after bringing Oscar over to me for a kiss, he then takes him upstairs with a cup of milk.  Oscar sits on a large blue pillow beside his bed to drink the milk, which is then swapped for his toothbrush when he has finished.  Oscar knows this routine and can repeat it to you step by step if you were to ask him.  When done brushing his teeth, Oscar lays onto the pillow and Dan reads him three books, always finishing with the same one.
The idea is that Oscar then climbs into his bed and goes to sleep.  Sometimes this happens, sometimes Oscar asks for more books and gets upset when he doesn’t get them and sometimes Oscar climbs into bed and tries really hard to fall asleep (shutting his eyes and going quiet) but just isn’t tired enough and so ends up fidgety and frustrated.  Usually whoever has put him to bed emerges downstairs by 9pm, but like I’ve said, this can drag on for much longer some nights.

I stopped breastfeeding Oscar around 21 months old.  There were several days in a row where he just hadn’t asked for any and so we decided to phase it out.  A few times during the fortnight which followed he would ask for ‘Mummy milk’ and I would explain to him that I could get him a cup of milk, but that he hadn’t been having Mummy milk for a little while now, so there wasn’t really any left.  He quickly accepted the cuddle and cup of milk without tears, and I wasn’t as sad about giving up our feeding time as I originally thought I might be.  We were both ready.

Oscar is in a size 2-3 clothes, and a size 6H shoe.  He can just about still squeeze into his size 6 wellies, but I will look for a size bigger next week, ready for all the puddles that I know will be coming our way soon!

He finally began jumping earlier this month and although he still doesn’t leave the floor by much, both feet definitely leave the ground at the same time now.  Before if you asked him to jump he would just bob up and down, thinking that he was jumping!

His speech has come on fantastically and everybody we meet comments on how well he can communicate.  He regularly puts together more than 10 words to form a sentence and his speech is so clear.  Walking home from nursery last week I asked him how his day had been and who he had played with.  He told me ‘Oscar play with Hadley and Alfie and Samuel’.  When prompted further he expanded and told me that ‘Alfie and Samuel held hands and then we all went down the slide together’.

He still attends nursery once a week on a Friday during term time.  We have fallen into a lovely routine whereby I go to collect him at 6pm then walk over to the park across the road where Dan meets us on his way home from work.  It’s such a lovely start to our weekends together and I love that on our walk over Oscar chats happily away about all of the activities he has gotten up to at nursery that day.  It’s so nice hearing about all the things that he got up to that day directly from him.

Oscar still does not watch television, although I have resorted to finding Thomas the Tank clips on my phone for him to watch on the odd occasion during desperate poonami situations!  Generally though, he is happy without the TV so the plan is to keep it that way for as long as we can.

His favourite things at the moment are reading books under the duvet in our bed, jumping off of the sofa, playing with his trains and dinosaurs and pretend play in general.

He received some new trains for his birthday, and when I turned a small box into a train tunnel he repeatedly pushed the trains through this tunnel for the best part of an hour and a half!

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Oscar can often be found placing pretend food into the oven of his toy kitchen and serving up toy cakes for us to eat or getting busy with the washing up!

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On Monday mornings Oscar has a half hour swimming lesson.  Towards the end of last term he refused to take part, running along the outside of the pool every time the toddlers were asked to get out onto the side and jump back in.  He gripped madly onto my neck and cried (without tears) every time the instructor or I tried to release his grip.  With lots of encouragement and a few weekend trips to the pool with Dan and I he seems to have regained his confidence though and his favourite lessons are the ones are once more the ones where he is asked to jump in from the side or run along the top of a giant float on the water.

He spends time drawing every day.  I used to be able to write out my to-do lists whilst sat at the breakfast table waiting for him to finish eating his breakfast in the morning, but this has now become impossible.  As soon as Oscar spots a pen he’s asking for paper so that he may draw with it.  Not content with just drawing letters, he now attempts to draw animals and will tell us what he is going to draw before putting pen to paper each time.

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(These are stingrays in case you couldn’t tell!)

For a long while he would give Dan or I a pen and paper and ask us to draw something specific.  ‘A blue train on the tracks’ or ‘a big cat by a dog’ but this has become less frequent just lately as he draws for himself.  He has also begun to colour things in.

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Here he chose to colour in all the ‘O’s.

Oscar attended the dentist with me for his first checkup at the start of the Summer holidays.  He lay on my chest in the dentist chair and did everything that was asked for him – opening his mouth and putting his tongue to each side.  The dentist told us that he has all but the back two teeth now and that his teeth were looking very healthy.  I have started to notice some of his teeth cross over a little bit just recently though, and occasionally during meals Oscar will point to one of his teeth and say ‘food stuck there’, asking me to remove whatever has gotten stuck between his teeth.

Oscar did have a brief toddler tantrum stage, although only really tantrumed when tired.  On those occasions things were very difficult.  He would ask for a banana, but would have wanted to open it himself when you’d already done it, or you would break a piece of sandwich off for him to eat, only to discover that he had wanted to bite from the sandwich himself.  Both actions are ones which cannot be undone, so not easily fixed!  Generally though, you can reason with him and he is accepting of what you are asking him to do.  We often lay and have chats together and I love that he is my mini best buddy right now.

Potty training is getting ever nearer.  Oscar has been able to tell us for a while now when he needs changing, but recently he has started to tell us before he needs to go for a wee as well, with enough time that we can strip him down and hold him over the toilet.  It don’t think it will be too much longer before we can begin looking to get him out of his nappies which will be nice.

I got an annual pass for West Lodge Farm Park earlier in the year and we have enjoyed lots of days out together.  We even made our way to the farm to celebrate his birthday last week.

I had wanted to make Oscar a typical homemade Mum cake for his birthday, and so had great fun creating an octopus cake for his friends.  Octopuses are one of his favourite animals at the moment after his obsession with aquatics and I thought it should be fairly easy to construct something that vaguely resembled an octopus.  As long as Oscar realised it was an octopus, that’s all that would matter!

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Since turning two Oscar has also moved up into the older room at nursery.  Today was his second session in the older room and this has come with a lot of tears.  Like me, Oscar doesn’t seem to be keen on change and as soon as his nursery drawstring bag came out this morning his eyes started to well up.  He remained brave until we entered the room, when he gripped onto my neck and told me repeatedly that he wanted a cuddle.  It breaks my heart leaving him, but I know that the nursery is doing him the world of good and that he enjoys himself so much when he is there.  Perhaps if we had family nearby to relieve the pressure on me slightly, Dan and I wouldn’t have him in nursery at this age but by the time Friday rolls around each week I find myself really needing those few hours to myself to get on with all the jobs and things that I want to do but am unable to whilst Oscar is attached to my side.

Beach life

Ultimately Oscar is growing into a really lovely little boy, one that I am so proud to call my son.  He is never mean to other children, always friendly and happy and he speaks with as much consideration and care as can be asked from him at the age of two.  I really do enjoy spending my time with him and hope that he also enjoys spending his time with me for many years to come.

18 month update

It certainly feels like Oscar has always been a part of our little family unit, but to look back and realise that he has been with us for 18 months now was a bit of a shock.  That just makes him sound so old and I’m not sure I’m ready for him to grow up just yet!

18 months old

I would like to keep a more regular diary of our adventures on here than I have done, especially now that Oscar is walking and talking and coming out with the funniest of things.  There have been so many little moments during the course of the past few months that have made me laugh really hard or made me melt inside and I don’t want to lose all those little moments in the madness that is everyday life.

So today I’m starting with a little update post about his current development.

Oscar and I are definitely big fans of routine, and he has come to expect nap and mealtimes at certain times of the day now.  I regularly post Day in the Life posts on AHM, so if you want to know what Oscar and I get up to during the week in more detail, then head over there for an insight.
Oscar usually wakes just before 7am and after changing his nappy and dressing him for the day (and sometimes also a quick book in our bed) we all head down for breakfast.  Oscar’s morning always includes reading, and general imagination play, such as with playdough or some of his animal toys.  Unless Oscar has a group to go to in the morning he goes down for a nap at 10:30 following a milk feed for about 1.5-2 hours which gives me a chance to get myself properly ready for the day as well as to prep lunch/tea and get on with general cleaning duties!
Lunch is about 12:30 and then in the afternoons we tend to have a more active activity.  He either attends a messy play session, or we go for a walk to the shops, along the river or to the park.  Oscar is a real fan of splashing in the puddles with his wellies on at the moment!
I try and have tea ready by 5:15pm.  Oscar and I eat together and then I reheat Dan’s dinner when he gets home a little over an hour later.  After tea I take Oscar upstairs for the night.  I bath him twice a week currently – Monday evenings (after his swimming lesson) and Thursday evenings (before nursery the following day) and he does enjoy bath time.  If it’s not a bath day then he spends a mad half hour rushing around the landing and in and out of the bedrooms before choosing a book for his Daddy to read to him on our bed when he arrives home from work.  Whilst Dan reads to him I quickly whizz round and tidy up O’s bedroom; drawing the curtains, pulling his duvet back, putting away his reading books, emptying his bin and tidying away his clothes.
Dan calls me through when he has finished reading and I give Oscar his second milk feed of the day before bed.  He is really good at going down to sleep on his own now.  Once he finishes feeding, I pick him up, kiss him, say ‘Night night’, which he repeats back to me and then walk through to his bedroom.  I place him down on his bed and he immediately rolls over onto his left side, clutching onto the muslin I gave him for his feed.  I tuck the duvet over him and kiss him one last time before pulling the door too behind me.  It’s usually about 7:30-7:45pm by the time I head back downstairs to clear up after the madness of the day!

In the mornings he has taken to calling ‘Mumma’ from his cot when he is ready for me to go and collect him, and it makes my heart melt every time!

Oscar spent most of February feeling rather poorly and this resulted in us bringing him into bed with us to sleep on four or five of the nights. In between us in our bed he was as good as gold, giving both Dan and I kisses and cuddles before shutting his eyes.  It wasn’t a great habit to get into; letting him share our bed – but I secretly loved those mornings where I woke up to him lying there with us.  He’s much better again now and I’m a little sad that those mornings have ended.

Oscar favours veggies over fruit, and prefers to have his fruit and veg as part of a meal rather than as a snack.  (Other than bananas, which he would eat all day long if I let him!)
For breakfast he tends to have either porridge cooked with fresh fruit stirred in (strawberries, blueberries, kiwi or plum), toast with peanut butter and a banana on the side, dippy egg and soldiers or fresh fruit pancakes.  Lunch is often a sandwich or quiche and I make a homecooked dinner at least 6 nights of the week such as a chicken casserole or caramelised onion sausages with mash and peas.
Some of his favourite foods at the moment are corn on the cob, sweet potato wedges, jacket potatoes with cheese and beans and veggie omelette.  I often make healthy snacks for him to have mid afternoon.  A favourite are peanut porridge balls – literally just peanut butter, porridge and banana all mushed together, rolled into a ball and cooked in the oven.  He also loves broccoli and mushroom muffins.  Originally he would eat anything and has never really been fussy at all.  He even eats fairly hot curries!  However, just lately he’s started to be a bit more selective over his choice of food.   He’s not a massive fan of carrots and goes through phases with raw kiwi.  He went through a phase of taking fruit out of the fruit bowl, taking a few bites and putting it back again – leaving a half-eaten apple or plum in the bowl!  Luckily he seems to have stopped this now though.
He’s confident in using his fork and spoon and we have transitioned him to using metal cutlery with plastic handles.

Oscar with corn

For the first time really since Oscar was born we have had to start buying clothes for him this month.  We were very lucky in that two of my friends donated huge bundles of clothes from their slightly older boys when Oscar was first born.  Both donations filled one wall of our attic with clothes up to 12 months, but Oscar is now firmly in a 12-18 month wardrobe, with a couple of pairs of trousers in a 18-24m size (albeit with the legs rolled up!)  This is mainly to fit around his nappy-bum as he has been in reusable nappies since he turned eight months old.  He wears a size 5.5H shoe (that’s super wide!) and is in a size 6 welly.  He has a lovely pair of crocodile wellies that he chose himself from the wellie sale in Waitrose last month.

Oscar smelling a flower

Despite desperately wanting to be propped up on his feet by the age of six months, Oscar was actually a really late walker.  In fact he was only a few days short of seventeen months before things finally clicked and he was off and away.  He had been taking bouts of 2-3 steps at a time by his first birthday, but this required huge amounts of encouragement every time and for both Dan and I to both be in the room with him.  We attended a play group session during the February half term which was really quiet.  There ended up just being one other Mum with her little boy along with Oscar and I.  The other little boy, Ralph, had just turned two and was running around everywhere.  Oscar was desperate to join in…so he did!  And since then he just never stopped running!

Oscar may have taken his time when it comes to walking, but he has definitely not held back when it comes to talking!  He is constantly chatting away at the moment, pointing out all the things around him as he recognises them.  Walking anywhere becomes a rather long task at times!  Last week, walking back from town had what felt like a million stops.
“Shoe!”
“Yes Oscar, that is your shoe.  Good boy!”
A few more steps…
“Shoe!” (Now pointing at his other shoe)
“Yep, that’s also your shoe.”
“Car!  Beep beep!”….

Our (rather large) clock was left on the sofa in our lounge this week, as we finally got a picture framed from our babymoon two years ago and that now hangs on the clock’s original hook.  I was rushing round to get Oscar out to group yesterday morning and told him that we were ‘going to be late – I still needed to get my shoes on.’  I headed out into our porchway to collect my shoes only to turn and find that he had brought me the clock and was now chanting “Tick Tock” rather loudly in my direction!

He can say (with meaning) well over 100 words now, and also associates certain words together as well.  For example, if you ask him what noises a cow/horse/monkey/frog/dog/chicken/cat/pig/sheep/lion/goat/snake/crocodile makes, he would be able to answer with a moo/clip clop/oo-oo-ah-ah/ribbit/woof woof/cluck cluck/miaow/oink/baa/roar/trip trap/sssssss/snap snap.

Other words and phrases that he knows and uses often include; sit down, up, down, snack, one more, please, tea, jump, clap clap, happy, cuddle, kiss, book, read, lap, milk, poo, Bell (the name of our cat), nenaw (for a fire-engine), Dadda, Mumma, ‘anddad (Granddad), Nanna, Blue (my Dad’s dog’s name), baby, dog, cheese, fish, Ralph, Alby, ball, heart, hot, bubble, boo, night night, see you soon, star, teeth, brush, egg, narna (banana), spoon, bowl, shoes, wellies, beep beep, hello and bye bye.

He can also point to the most common body parts when asked, repeating the words that you say to him; hair, head, eye, eyebrow, ear, nose, mouth, tongue, teeth, elbow, hand, finger, shoulder, belly, belly button, bum, knee and toes.

He copies everything we do and say at the moment, so we have to be so careful what we come out with now, and which actions we make in front of him as he is really quick to pick up on them.  I nipped to the toilet the other morning and came back into the office to find Oscar trying to put on my makeup!  I don’t even wear makeup that often!

Oscar putting on my makeup

One of his absolute favourite things to do is to sing.  He knows actions to all the nursery rhymes.  His favourites being Sleeping Bunnies, Incy Wincy Spider, If you’re happy and you know it, The Wheels on the Bus and Twinkle, Twinkle.  We have a Google Home Mini in our kitchen and Oscar will walk up to it and attempt to engage in conversation.  Unfortunately Google doesn’t understand requests of ‘Baa baa’, ‘star’ or ‘down down’!  We attend a Rhyme Time each week at our local library and Oscar is that child that leaves my side the second we arrive in order to ensure he has a seat right in front of the group leader and can join in with all the actions she does!  The way he launches himself down onto the ground to become a sleeping bunny every time a rabbit is pulled out of the rhyme bag always cracks me up!  He just loves it so much!

Oscar is not fussed with TV.  Neither Dan or I watch a huge amount and have always tried to interact with Oscar’s activities rather than just sit him in front of the TV  In turn, he always wants to be doing something rather than sitting zoned out in front of the box.  I’d like to keep it this way too!

Oscar’s favourite things include going down the slides, the seesaw and reading books.  He loves all animals and has to say “Bye bye dog” to every dog that passes us on the street.  We took him to the zoo recently and it was lovely to see him so interested in each of the animals that we saw.

Oscar and Dan on the slide

Oscar has been attending weekly swimming lessons since he was 12 weeks old and he is so confident in the water now.  He can happily climb out at the edge of the pool and jump in unaided.  One of his favourite activities during swimming lessons is when the swim instructor brings out a large 2m long thick float for the babies to sit on.  We let them all sit on it together and wobble the board on the water.  Afterwards, the babies take it in turns to walk along the top of the float to jump in to the pool.  Oscar always shrieks and is already saying “One more!” before even jumping!

He loves to draw and will regularly come over to Dan or I clutching a scrap of paper he’s found from somewhere, asking for a pen to draw.  This past fortnight he’s really got to grips with holding the pen properly.  He also likes to give you the pen and point out where on the paper you should draw something and what it is you should be drawing for him!  His favourites to ask for are; the letter ‘O’, Bella or a star.  He recognises all of the letters in his name – O, s, c, a and r and points them out whenever he sees them around, for example on signs or the covers of magazines.  Particularly the letter O.

Oscar learning to write

At a guess Oscar is now sporting about 10 teeth.  Way too many for me to want to put my finger in there and count anymore anyway!

I still breastfeed twice a day during the week – once just before his morning nap and once before bed.  At the weekends I tend to be sleeping following a night shift when he takes his nap so he just has his nighttime milk feed.

Oscar attends nursery one day a week during term time, which seems to suit us as a family right now.  I would love to have him home with me all the time but with no nearby family able to help out or support us and no chance for me to get web work/house admin done (working all weekend and Oscar’s love of the keyboard mean sitting at a computer is just impossible!) having those 37 days in the year as child free makes a big difference.  It’s good for his development too.  The nursery is a lovely one and they host activities that I wouldn’t ever have thought of doing at home on my own with him.

Oscar is developing such a lovely little personality at the moment.  He holds his mouth open and goes “Ahhh” when he wants to kiss someone, which he regularly does to Dan, Me, Bella, my Dad and a couple of his favourite toys.  He also comes over for a cuddle at times, with his arms open wide and makes the cutest little cuddling noises.  He starts out shy when he finds himself in a new environment or with people he doesn’t recognise, but once he sees us at ease in the new situation he begins to relax and wants to please everyone.  I am lucky as I don’t think we’ve really hit the toddler tantrum stage yet.  Although he’s had a few minor melt downs, so far we’ve always been able to reason with him to do as we’ve asked, without giving in to his unreasonable demands!  (What child could eat FIVE bananas anyway?!)

Dan, Me and Oscar on holiday in York

I know that we are very lucky – I genuinely feel so happy and content with my little family of four (Bella included!)  All that lack of sleep in the early days and the inability to be able to get on with absolutely anything during the day time is definitely worth it!

A uniform so small

I packed and repacked Oscar’s bag this morning; two changes of clothes, his sippy cup, a small pot of sudocrem, a sun cap and his favourite teddy, ‘Scarlet Bear’.

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I was only leaving him for an hour.  I’ve left him for runs lasting longer than an hour, and there was that time when I traveled down to Wales for the weekend to take part in a marathon last month.

But all of those times he stayed with my husband.  Oscar’s Daddy, who has the same values as me and who has the same investment in the small little person we both could no longer imagine our lives without.

This time was different.  Today was the first time I left Oscar at nursery, with strangers I would currently barely recognise in the street.

It wasn’t like he was going in for a full day or anything and he’s actually been in to the nursery twice before.  Once, months ago when we went to have a look round during the initial hunt for a childcare place on my return to work.  And once on Monday, where I stayed by his side for the duration, interacting with both Oscar and the surrounding toys whilst filling out the paperwork required for his start.

Oscar has stayed with both sets of Grandparents briefly before.  Each set has had him for one evening over the past few months, with varying levels of success.  Oscar ate whilst we left him, he slept, he cried.  Both times he was doing just fine when Dan and I returned home from our evening out, and (to my knowledge) the Grandparents had followed our routine and instructions, their sole focus for the time he was there on the smallest and newest member of their family.  He wasn’t one of three small people of toddling age who they had to divide their attention between.

I know that I am not the only person ever to put their child in a nursery setting, and I definitely won’t be the only person left feeling like this.  I know that it is only seven working weeks until I leave my job, and that I am incredibly lucky that from the end of July I will be able to spend my days bringing Oscar up and sharing the world with him.  But at the same time, seven weeks feels like the longest time.

So much can change in seven weeks.  This week alone for the first time Oscar has chewed his toes, rolled over, waved, said “Dadda” and gotten his very first tooth.  I would like for his first solo steps and first crawl to be when I am around to witness and it pains me that I possibly won’t be.

So, next week as Oscar heads in for his final two taster mornings I will plaster on my brave face.  I’ll dress Oscar in his dark green, teeny, tiny uniform and give him a kiss as I leave him at the door.  I will be wishing with all my heart for him to enjoy his morning at nursery, but at the same time secretly hope that he is also missing me and that he is also counting down the days until the Summer arrives.

58 days and counting…

A return to work

Oscar is asleep.  It took plenty of rocking and a bit of boob, but he’s actually sound asleep snoring on my bed in the room next to me as I type.

The house is in disarray; the landing is currently housing Oscar’s changing mat along with a slightly damp towel and the bathroom has his large clunky baby bath filled to the brim with still-warm water, some coloured plastic balls and a yellow watering can.  Downstairs, toys lay strewn across a large playmat in the lounge and Oscar’s half-eaten toast breakfast lays abandoned across the tray of his high chair (and also the floor).

Yet, I am choosing to ignore all of the chaos in my house right now and hole myself away in the office with a sugary snack, large glass of water and my computer so that I may write, as I feel I’ve not had the chance to do so for a while.

As I glance outside of the office window I can see a young Mum sporting a fag, mindlessly kicking a ball around the grass fronting our street, whilst a toddler jogs behind, gripping tightly onto a large Pooh bear.  She doesn’t appear to be paying him much attention, but it’s hard to know the full story looking in from the outside.

I hope that I never appear to ignore Oscar, or become too busy to give him my time and attention.

Since last writing I have handed in my notice at my job.  As a high school teacher I would often be working long past midnight in the evenings, and with an early alarm set for 4am – sometimes even earlier – during coursework submission months.  Running is my love and my escape, but at times even that didn’t make it high up the priority list for the week, leaving me constantly feeling tired and run down and not enjoying life.

Having a baby is so much more work than I ever imagined.  (I admit I was rather naive and blasé about it all!)  I cannot imagine trying to fit a seven, eight or nine month old baby into the crazy routine that had become my life.  Maybe a little selfishly, I want to see Oscar grow up myself, – not have him brought up by somebody else.  As it is, I will be returning to work for the final half term of the year (June-July) and fear that the first time that he crawls and his first steps are going to fall during those weeks.  He’s already pulling himself up using chairs and is never happier than when he has hold of a pair of hands helping him walk around the lounge.

He turns seven months old tomorrow.  I almost missed this milestone as in my head he is still that tiny little baby who weighed less than 7lbs and who I had to feed every two hours.  Sleep deprivation is incredibly difficult, but it does get easier – your body somehow manages to cope with less and less sleep each night.  I joked to Dan the other day that I couldn’t wait for Oscar to become a teenager so that I may enjoy a few lye-ins (something I very rarely had even before Oscar was born).  Dan quickly told me that I shouldn’t wish the time away.  I absolutely do not want to start doing that!

I’m loving spending my days with him at the moment.  Almost-seven-months is a lovely age.  He’s so interactive and cheeky and fun to be with right now.  We have a great little routine going and even though Dan has ended up working more hours in a week than we initially anticipated, we do manage to juggle all of the weekly household tasks alongside Oscar-duty between us.  I feel at the moment we are managing to make a go somewhat of adult life.

Oscar can sit up confidently on his own now, but he always wants to stand.  We bought him a walker-which he adores, but he adores it more if you interact with him whilst he’s in it, paying him lots of attention.  That’s what my days tend to consist of lately; a mad rush first thing to shower, breakfast, wash up, get the washing on and make Dan’s packed lunch whilst he is still around to watch Oscar.  Then comes a day of swimming lessons, or stay and play group, or a run in the buggy and lots of play time, before (hopefully) an afternoon nap when I can start on tea, which Oscar now has with us.  8pm is his bedtime, and he then usually has a solid eight hours of sleep before a brief wake to feed and then heads back to bed again.  I can’t get him down to sleep the way that Dan can, so bed-duty is currently down to Daddy.  It’s nice that Dan has a needed role in all this parenting malarkey.  So often I think the Dads can be forgotten about.

We’re muddling through at the moment.  Does anyone ever feel like they honestly really know what they are doing?  Somebody (a non-parent) asked Dan and I the other day if it felt ‘real’ yet.  There are days when it doesn’t.  Oscar is always the first thought on my mind when I wake up and every decision I make during every single day of the week has to bear Oscar in mind, but I still feel like we are just ‘muddling through’ and hope that one day perhaps we will truly know what we are supposed to do as parents.

The decision not to return to work was in some ways a big one.  I have always wanted to stay home during the time any children I may have were small, but obviously career path and money become factors in the reality of this.  I’ve always worked hard since I was a teenager, – often holding down more than one job at once – and partly because of this we own a large proportion of our house.  Just after Christmas Dan accepted a new job working in the technical side of a large law firm.  The job meant that he would be closer to home and earning more money.  We no longer needed to have a second full time income to survive.  An income of which most would likely have to go straight into childcare costs if I was to return to work.  I spent some time researching costs and money making ideas to discover that I could likely bring in enough money on the side working from home to cover our rainy day fund and so an idea began to grow.

It didn’t help that back in February I was offered a long-awaited promotion, meaning a higher salary and more responsibility.  It was tough to turn down, but I know that long term it will be better for both Oscar, and Dan and I as parents – our entire little family.

A couple of weeks ago at a BBQ get-together, having just announced that I had handed in my notice to finish work at the end of the Summer, one of Dan’s friends responded with “So are you just going to live off of Dan’s money now then?”

This question really got my back up.

When Oscar starts nursery in June, we will be paying £890 a month for the privilege.  Not only does that mean I will never see a large chunk of my salary each month, but I will not have any time to do the things that I want to do.  My life will consist of getting Oscar round in the morning, bundling him off to nursery, working all day, collecting him in the evening, cooking tea, cleaning and clearing, washing and tidying (all inbetween keeping Oscar entertained) until Oscar’s bedtime when I would be able to sit at the computer and plan and mark until the early hours of the following morning, hoping that Oscar would sleep through the night and I might just get enough sleep to let me get through the following day.  He wants my attention during all his waking hours.  At the moment, he is not old enough to be left to entertain himself and all those ‘free’ hours I thought I would be able to dedicate to house renovations and blogging during the day seem to pass me by as I stack brightly coloured cups for Oscar to knock down over and over again, and over-enthusiastically smile, praise and make chewing motions for the tenth time as he turns his nose up at a slice of courgette.

If Oscar was ill, the guilt I would feel for having to take time off from work – letting others down – would be high.  I would miss all of his milestone moments and not truly enjoy my time with him as I would always be waiting for his bedtime, and the time that I knew that I would be able to get on with my never ending to-do-list.  I know that I would feel constantly stressed, rushed off my feet and unable to do anything to the best of my ability.

No time for running, no time for blogging, or walking or taking photos, or volunteering on the running club committee, or social media or watching TV boxsets with a tub of Ben & Jerrys or just hanging out on the sofa with my husband because we didn’t fancy going out.  Life would just become looking after my child, housework and teaching.  I want to be more than that.  I need to be more than that.

A friend recently commented that they would have to return to work when they had children as they would not be able to afford to stay home with a child.  It is what you make it though.  Dan and I don’t want for fast cars and expensive holidays.  Everything we have (bar our house) is paid in full and we saved up to buy those things.  We don’t need money.  We don’t need anything.  Just enough to pay the bills each month and we will get by.

I know that having children was our decision and something that I wanted to do and I absolutely want to bring Oscar (and any future children) up in a loving, safe home.  One where Dan and I have time to spend with our children and can watch them learn and grow.  A home where our children learn to bake, play football and have fun with arts and crafts.  Not one where they watch three hours of TV before bed because I don’t have time for them as I have 100 year 9 reports due by the end of the week and I need to finish writing a new Scheme of Work for year 12 before my head touches the pillow.

My Head of Department summed up how I was feeling when I handed in my notice…

“I know that you won’t have made this decision lightly.  I also know that you couldn’t possibly be just an ‘OK’ teacher and just an ‘OK’ Mum, so it’s about priorities.  It’s so important to be happy in life Mary.”

I’ve actually already been offered a couple of roles that I can complete from home since handing my notice in (marking for an exam board and moderating coursework for my current school) and have a few ideas on how to make the odd tenner here and there alongside my new full-time role as parent.

I know that ultimately I have made the right decision for our little family so let our adventures as a family of three begin…

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